20 Jan

OPINION: “Let the Truth Be Told”

By Daniel Birai — When I was six months old, my family left Nairobi, Kenya, and moved to Berrien Springs, Michigan, for what every immigrant seeks in America–a greater opportunity to make a better life. My siblings and I had the privilege of starting our educational journey in a Seventh-day Adventist school. My mother reflects often on how proud she is that we grew up at the Crayon Box on the campus of Andrews University. During our time there, both of my parents received advanced degrees at Andrews.

Later, we returned to Kenya, where my siblings and I again had the privilege of receiving an Adventist education at Maxwell Adventist Preparatory School. But my parents realized that while they had gotten what they needed–education–we had missed out on learning Kiswahili, and we were not going to thrive in a country where we did not know the language. Fluency in Kiswahili was a requirement for taking college placement exams. So, we soon moved back to Michigan.

We couldn’t afford Adventist education then, so I spent the rest of middle school, high school, and college in secular schools. I learned important lessons–how to stand up for my faith, what it meant to live in a family with Christian values, and how lonely it was to be one of only two practicing Adventist students in my college.

When I sensed the call to go into ministry, I was extremely reluctant, but I knew that I was in for an abundance of personal relationships with like-minded individuals. That’s exactly what I got at Andrews University; and most importantly, at Andrews I found my amazing Haitian wife, Lydie.

Fast forward to 2019 and our oldest daughter, Hadassah (we call her Haddie), is attending school. Pastor Paul Eagan was such an amazing mentor who taught me the importance of a pastor’s support for the church school. As challenging as finances could be, the mission of impacting children for eternity while providing a Christ-centered education was worth all the financial, logistical, and people challenges that came along with it. It was a lesson I treasured.

To see Haddie come home from school and often mistakenly calling my wife or me “Teacher” would have been a deep concern if we hadn’t known the awesome character of the Fort Collins Christian School. Since it was led by Dennis and Keiko Breese and supported by Jessica Reeder, we knew that it was a safe place for our child to be.

We moved to Denver recently to serve in a new church, which meant transferring Hadassah to Mile High Academy (MHA). Knowing that she had two other siblings following her, the first priority around moving to Denver was to find a home less than 10 minutes away from MHA. God provided one eight minutes away. We knew there would be many trips to MHA and great educators and administrators would enter our lives, especially Mrs. Lucy Werner, Haddie’s preschool teacher.

One day, sitting next to Haddie, I heard her humming a song. As the most vocal musician in the house, I was surprised that it wasn’t a song I had taught her. I asked her, “Where did you learn that song?” She replied, “At school.” Hmmmm, I thought to myself, it doesn’t seem like a learning song or a nursery rhyme, which I could instantly spot. I pretended to ignore her and heard a few lyrics come out of her mouth. “. . . I’m, oh, I’m fine but I’m not . . . Let the truth be told.”

Now I HAD to know what this song was. A quick search pulled up some songs by Matthew West, and Haddie instantly recognized and pointed to the one she was singing, “Truth Be Told.” After listening to the song with her, joy filled my heart. I felt so proud, so safe, so overjoyed that I didn’t have to be concerned or afraid of what she would learn while at MHA, or any of our Adventist schools. Are things perfect? Far from it. After all, we are dealing with human beings. But as parents, knowing that our children will spend just as much time with their teachers as with us, it’s critical for us to be able to trust what the teachers stand for. We are committed to Mile High Academy, or whatever Adventist institution we find God leading us through.

Let the Truth Be Told. Adventist education isn’t inexpensive. As schools across the North American Division close down, we may ask, what is going to prevent Mile High Academy, Fort Collins Christian School, Union College, or any of our other institutions from shutting down?

This is a question some of our pastors recently wrestled with. I love what my colleague, Pastor Tom of Aurora Adventist church, shared as a sermon illustration for the new year. He gave each of the worshippers that week two M&Ms. One represented mission, the other maintenance. He asked, “If you had to pick only one, which one would you pick?” Even though some tried to say “Both,” he challenged them: “Only one.” His point? We must stay focused on mission.

Our Denver area pastors have committed themselves to thinking of creative ways we can ensure that Seventh-day Adventist education will continue. Their commitment has strengthened my own conviction that the countless hours and millions of dollars required to keep it thriving are worth it. As far as I and my household are concerned, I’ll echo another pastor from our think tank: “I support Adventist Education because it works.”

–Daniel Birai is co-pastor at LifeSource Adventist Fellowship in Denver, Colorado; photo courtesy of Mile High Academy Facebook.

19 Jan


RMCNews with Todd Essex – Highlands Ranch, Colorado … Mile High Academy (MHA) has been ranked as the top team in the Colorado 1A basketball program as the 2021 season begins.  The poll is released weekly after voting by coaches and officials at Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA).  There are currently 60 teams in Class 1A basketball.

Being ranked number one at the beginning of season is a testimony of the dedication the students and coaches have to the basketball program at MHA.

“Over the last 3 years since joining CHSAA, I’m very proud of the players, coaches, Athletic Director’s, and many others that have helped get to this point,” Todd Essex, MHA Varsity Boys Head Coach said.

Parents echoed Essex comments. “Congratulations to our kids and to all the coaches. I am beyond happy. I missed screaming for them,” Roselyn Oneka, parent of MHA student commented.

Essex reflects on the students he gets the privilege to coach, “The kids have always worked hard, been committed, and they compete with integrity. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than to be respected by other coaches and programs.”

The MHA Mustangs tip off their season on February 1.

–Todd Essex is the Varsity Boys Basketball Head Coach at Mile High Academy; photo courtesy of Todd Essex Facebook.

19 Jan


By Jill Harlow – Loveland, Colorado … Campion Academy has had to move to remote learning for a period of at least two weeks due to a residence hall student testing positive for COVID-19 last Friday, January 15.

Following protocol, the student and his roommate were isolated and then tested last Wednesday, January 13 when the student first displayed symptoms, and the results came back on Friday afternoon. Completing contact tracing the school’s administrators isolated others who were close contacts. By Saturday morning, three of those close contacts had come down with similar symptoms, so the administration acted quickly to protect the other students and staff by sending all students home beginning Saturday evening and Sunday.

The students affected have remained in the residence halls under the care of the deans and school nurse and currently have mild symptoms.

Following Larimer County guidelines, after an outbreak of COVID-19, all classrooms have to move to online learning and quarantine for a minimum period of two weeks.

“It is unfortunate that we’ve had to send our students home for the time being. However, this is a situation that we have had to anticipate and plan for this year,” explained Principal Donavan Reeder. “Most importantly, we want to keep our students and staff safe, so we had to be proactive in preventing a further outbreak.”

The administration will be further monitoring the situation and is seeking out best protocols to bring students back to campus as soon as safely possible. Reeder is working closely with the Thompson Valley School District Safety coordinator to follow county guidelines in returning to in-person learning.

“We were blessed to have had a COVID-free first semester, and we trust that God will carry us through this experience as well and bring us back together soon,” said Reeder. “Please continue to pray for the ministry of our school.”

–Jill Harlow is communication director for Campion Academy

19 Jan

Not quite International Day at IAA

By Sarah Gould – Grand Junction, Colorado … Intermountain Adventist Academy (IAA) in Grand Junction, Colorado, began 2021 going back in time to the 1800s by hosting Western Day with students dressed up in their favorite Western apparel.

With the uncertainties of COVID even in 2021, IAA started the 3rd quarter with something students could get excited about–school spirit week. Students certainly didn’t disappoint with their creativity and flair.

“It was fun to see all the Western wear yesterday. We’ve got twins running around today,” Jami Simpson, second to fourth-grade teacher wrote on a Facebook post.

Sarah Gould, kindergarten and first grade teacher, commented, “We had a kindergartner come in Monday with a cowboy hat so wide, she hit the door frame trying to get in!”

The students faced challenges all week with Western Day on Monday, Twin Day on Tuesday, followed by Wacky Wednesday, Color Day on Thursday and concluded the week with International Day.

On Wacky Wednesday, students “showed Dr. Seuss proud”, dressing as wacky as his characters.

International Day may need to be explained next year, Gould explained “Seeing many students in “civilian” clothes (not school uniforms), I decided to inquire what country they were representing. One 6th grader replied, “America.”’

“Meanwhile, I had to suffer [through] wearing a sari from India that I’m sure, upon close inspection, would have received a disappointed shake of the head from anyone familiar with wrapping a sari properly.”

Students and teachers had a wonderful time as they celebrated God’s blessings in a unique way, and enjoyed the experience in-person.

–Sarah Gould is Kindergarten and First Grade teacher at Intermountain Adventist Academy; photos supplied.

Editor’s note – Children pictured without masks are under the age of 11 and are exempt from the Colorado mask mandate.

18 Jan


By Chris Morris …“Hey Chris, you should put your name in the hat to be considered for our lead pastor position.”  I was an elder at a small and wonderful church in Phoenix. The pastor of the church had announced that he was moving on to a different calling. After that specific worship service, a fellow elder approached me with that declaration.

I was in shock! I had been a high school math teacher for 16 years. Teaching was all I knew. While I loved preaching and connecting with people, I had no training or passion (so I thought) to be a pastor.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” I responded. I assumed that would be the end of it. Instead, the church persisted in letting me know that they wanted me to consider the position. And I persisted in denying the invitation.

Not long after that worship service, a conference official shared that he would be willing to pastor the church for a year, and invited me to be his associate pastor during that time while continuing my teaching. He said after that year, if I decided I wanted to remain in teaching, so be it. If, however, I found my calling was to the ministry, the church was mine to shepherd.

At this point, I knew this was a call from God. After prayerful consideration, I accepted the call to be the associate pastor. A year later, I was installed as the lead pastor. On the evening of the first Sabbath as lead pastor, I recall sitting in my bedroom with this feeling of emotional awe washing over me. A predominantly Caucasian Seventh-day Adventist congregation chose me, an African-American, to be their lead pastor? While I’m sure this wasn’t a first, I had never personally seen, heard, or experienced this before. For me, right there in that moment, a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote came to mind. “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” That Phoenix church judged me by my character, not my skin color. It was a personal glimpse of MLK’s dream in my life.

It’s a dream that must persist beyond glimpses and arrive at full-on actualization, everywhere.  It’s a dream that really wasn’t MLK’s to begin with. Galatians 3:27-28 says, “For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This was God’s intention for man and was Jesus mission among man all along. Through Apostle Paul, God chose his church as the people who would live out the principles of equality, justice, and unity in a world that more times than not reflects hierarchy, injustice, and division.

In 2021, we must acknowledge that we have not arrived. As God’s people, we have a special calling and privilege to continue the mission of Jesus Christ and of Martin Luther King, Jr. “We must learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools.”

–Chris Morris is associate pastor of Littleton church; photo courtesy of Chris Morris’ Facebook.

18 Jan


By Bentlee Barry – Loveland, Colorado … The campus of Campion Academy is once again filled with sounds of laughter, renewed friendships, and excitement as students return after a month and half being away.

Out of abundance of caution Campion started the second semester with online school for one week to allow any potential exposure to COVID over the holiday break to be extinguished.  As the campus and school begin in-person learning the health and safety protocols which helped Campion complete the first semester COVID-free will continue to be in place.

Students are deeply appreciative of having classes return in-person and are anticipating a strong semester.

“I mostly am looking forward to making new friends and building the friendships I have already,” said Sam.

“I look forward to growing spirituality, and I’m really excited for volleyball and trying out for girls’ soccer,” Blessing reflected.

Many students have set goals and are looking forward to this new year and school semester.

“I really just want to get through the semester and graduate with good grades. I want to get closer with the people in the church because they have good insights and spirituality,” Jynaya explained.

Lindsey commented, “I would like to keep my grades consistent and end with a 4.0. I really enjoy playing all sports, so I’d like to work on my athletic skills.”

Campion Academy staff are eagerly anticipating opening up more programs and trips this semester if the COVID regulations ease.

–Bentlee Barry is a senior at Campion Academy; photo supplied

14 Jan


By Mike Maldonado – Colorado Springs, Colorado … The Central Adventist church in Colorado Springs ended 2020 with a Sabbath afternoon celebration of five baptisms, including a community member who attends the local Baptist church.

How does an Adventist pastor get the opportunity to baptize an individual who attends the Baptist church? By being active in the community and fostering fraternal relationships with fellow clergy.

Mike Maldonado, pastor of Colorado Springs Central Adventist Church, has spent the last three years building a relationship with John Harris, the local Baptist pastor. The friends visit and worship in each other’s churches.

When Harris learned that Maldonado would be baptizing four individuals on December 26, he asked Maldonado to baptize one his congregants, as his age and frail health made it difficult for him to do so, Maldonado said.

On Sabbath afternoon December 26, the Baptist church attendee stood alongside four other individuals who were publicly declaring their love for Jesus Christ. Some 30 individuals joined in the celebration held at Central church, including many from the Baptist church.

Harris took part in the service by offering prayer and remarks prior to the baptisms, saying, “This is one of the most meaningful and beautiful baptismal services I have ever attended!”

The baptisms conclude a year of blessing for the congregation, but one that was also very tiring and stressful for many members. It also caps a year in which Central had the opportunity to celebrate 44 decisions for baptism, people who declared Jesus as their Savior.

“It goes without saying that 2020 was a difficult year for all of us,” said Pastor Maldonado.

“Yet, despite the pandemic and other disruptions, 2020 proved to be one of the most fruitful years for growth at Central Seventh-day Adventist Church in Colorado Springs. The Holy Spirit blessed Central with forty-four baptisms, each representing a precious person won for the Kingdom of God”

Mike Maldonado is Pastor of the Central Adventist Church, photos courtesy of Central church’s Facebook.

13 Jan


By Ardis Stenbakken – Loveland, Colorado … When the Campion church Pathfinder club discovered one of its church members, Waverly Taylor, was facing a serious cancer condition, they decided to support Taylor by doing small chores around her home, including mowing the lawn when needed.

During a recent Pathfinder meeting in December, Pathfinders discovered that members of the church were gathering for a special session of prayer for Taylor, whose cancer had returned. The Pathfinder meeting was put on hold and they joined the wider church to pray for Taylor.

With COVID safety guidelines in place, Waverley’s family, friends, and church members gathered around her in the community center of the Campion church for an extended time of prayer. Following the church tradition for those facing serious illness of giving a hand-made quilt, Waverley was presented with a prayer quilt containing encouraging messages signed on its reverse side.

The quilt, created by the Loveland Seventh-day Adventist Community Services Quilters, was made by “many loving hands,” reported Ardis Stenbakken, church communication director.

Continuing her battle with cancer Waverly appreciates all prayers for healing.

–Ardis Stenbakken is Campion church communication director; photos by Ella Jean

13 Jan


By Sandi Adcox – Grand Junction, Colorado … SAGE, the senior ministry of the Grand Junction church, is building relationships in the community by offering watercolor painting classes.

The small classes of 12 individuals have provided a safe way to gather during the pandemic.

Classes began in March of 2020 and are offered in four-week sessions. Many fill to capacity and there is often a waiting list of individuals wanting to learn how to paint with watercolors. The first class of 2021 has begun and the next session, scheduled to begin in February, is already maxed out with many on a waiting list.

Watercolor painting is popular among all generations.

“We were so glad the watercolor class was offered. It is both a social gathering where we are making new friends, and a way to challenge my brain in a new way,” Tina Ruf, who recently moved to Grand Junction, remarked.

The classes are taught by local artist and church member, Sandy Carolsella. Students of various skill levels learn the basics of watercolor artistry and each student completes several paintings. During some sessions, all students paint the same picture to learn a specific technique, but in most classes, they choose their own picture and receive individual assistance.

The current class has three community members not affiliated with the church attending the Monday sessions being held at the Grand Junction church.

–Sandi Adcox is senior ministry leader for Grand Junction church; photo supplied.

13 Jan

Leaders Vote to Postpone General Conference Session 2020 for a Second Time

By Adventist News Network — Silver Spring, Maryland …For the second time in 10 months, members of the Executive Committee of the global Seventh-day Adventist Church have voted to postpone the quinquennial session of the denomination, originally scheduled for late June of 2020, due to challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the General Conference Executive Committee (EXCOM) from around the world attended the January 12, 2021, virtual Zoom session, where they listened to reports from world church administration, health officers of the church, logistics coordinators, and legal counsel. Leaders discussed the feasibility of adhering to the planned business session dates of May 20-25, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States, that had been previously approved by the same body.

The persistence of the deadly global COVID-19 pandemic and its enduring impacts on public health, travel, and the availability of international visas persuaded the international body to postpone the session until June 6-11, 2022, also in Indianapolis. The new plan voted by church leaders and laypersons now postpones the date for the denomination’s quinquennial business session for nearly two years from its originally scheduled dates, as allowed by the Adventist Church’s constitution.

GC president Ted N. C. Wilson, who chaired the EXCOM committee, began the two-hour meeting by outlining the process of data collection and discussion that brought the recommendations to the governing body of the church. “A team of workers has been working diligently,” Wilson said. “We have been carefully reviewing things, especially with those in session management and planning.”

Wilson added that recommendations are coming from a consensus approach from various groups, including world division officers, health professionals, Adventist Risk Management, the Office of General Counsel, and other Adventist Church leaders. “This is not a recommendation directly coming from the three senior officers of the GC,” he said. “This is something that has come from a plethora of information and counselors.”

Current Challenges

Wilson introduced those who would provide background and context to the current and projected challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic.

Peter Landless, director of Health Ministries for the global Adventist Church, shared current COVID-19 statistics and concerns of moving forward with such a large gathering. Given the rising infection numbers, along with a new, more infectious and aggressive strain, Landless said the Health Ministries department had to recommend delaying the GC Session.

“We’ve been consulting with international experts, and taking into account the needs and concerns. The GC Health Ministries department believes it is prudent and practical stewardship to postpone the GC Session to 2022, given this difficult time,” Landless said. “And it is with a heavy heart one makes this recommendation. However, it is a recommendation that comes because it appears there is no alternative.”

GC meeting planner Sheri Clemmer outlined some of the current challenges to a large meeting of delegates from around the world. She mentioned visitor visa difficulties and quarantine requirements, especially for those who use public transportation and transportation hubs. She also explained standard COVID protocols surrounding mass gatherings in Indianapolis.

G. T. Ng, executive secretary of the global Adventist Church, reported data collected from the division leadership about the likelihood of delegates being able to attend the May 2021 GC Session. Major challenges to achieving a large portion of delegates that were expressed by division leadership included travel bans, quarantine restrictions, and problems obtaining visas to the United States. The General Conference constitution does not currently allow for electronic participation at a General Conference Session.

Tim Northrop, president of Adventist Risk Management, outlined various liability risks that could follow if EXCOM voted to not delay the 2021 Session.

“We have an important meeting for our church. What we have heard is that there are potential exposures and potential risks,” Northrop said. “We have also heard our constitution allows us to weigh those risks and to consider moving the meeting to a later date. This business continuity plan we have as leaders is important. It allows us to be more nimble and allows us to continue the ministry of our church.”

Following the presentations and discussion, the recommendation to move the dates of the General Conference to June 2022 was put to a vote by electronic polling. The motion passed with a vote of 185 to 9.

Following the vote, Landless concluded the discussion with a serious observation: “We have been brought to this point, not because it is something we would like to do, but something we have to do.”

— This article was originally published on the Adventist News Network. Photo courtesy of Adventist Review